Gun Manufacturers Immune from Route 91 Harvest Festival Lawsuits
The Supreme Court of Nevada has upheld the state’s statutory immunity for gun manufacturers and distributors, holding that they are immune from claims arising from the Route 91 Harvest Festival massacre. On October 1, 2017, a shooter fired 1,049 rounds into a crowd attending an outdoor concert, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more. The shooter used AR-15 rifles that he had modified using bump stocks – attachments that essentially allow shooters to fire semiautomatic rifles continuously with one pull of the trigger. Litigation followed, including a lawsuit alleging those who manufactured and distributed the rifles were liable for what occurred that night.
In Parsons v. Colt’s Manufacturing Company, LLC, 137 Nev. Adv. Op. 72 (Dec. 2, 2021), the Supreme Court on December 2, 2021, decided that Nevada Revised Statute 41.131 applied to this case and immunized the firearm manufacturers and distributors from state law claims arising from the shooting. The statute states, in relevant part, that “[n]o person has a cause of action against the manufacturer or distributor of any firearm or ammunition merely because the firearm or ammunition was capable of causing serious injury.” The plaintiffs had argued the statute did not apply here because the manufacturers and distributors knew the rifles could be modified with bump stocks and that the manufacturers’ and distributors’ liability arose from the rifles’ modification, not the rifles’ inherent capability of causing serious injury. The Supreme Court disagreed, concluding that acceptance of the plaintiff’s position would require rewriting the statute: “If civil liability is to be imposed against firearm manufacturers and distributors in the position of the gun companies in this case, that decision is for the Legislature, not this court.”